Victims of disability hate crimes are unlikely to receive justice, according to figures obtained by Leonard Cheshire and United Response.
Using figures obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all police forces in England and Wales, the two charities found that just under 11,000 disability hate crimes were reported between April 2022 and March 2023.
The data showed that roughly half of these reports involved violence and over 1,300 occurred online. While disability hate crime reports are down by 3.7% from the record numbers of incidents in 2021/22, they are still higher than pre-pandemic figures.
Despite the drop in hate crime reports, just 132 cases (1.2%) resulted in a charge or CPS referral.
Across England and Wales, 36 of the 43 police forces provided figures on disability hate crimes. Around half (23) provided further data about outcomes resulting in no charge. We found that ‘evidential difficulties’, ‘victim withdrawing’ and ‘no suspect identified’ were the three most common reasons for victims to go without redress.
The police data showed ‘evidential difficulties’ and ‘no suspect identified’ account for 55% of all the reported no charge outcomes.
The charities commissioned a YouGov poll to discover more about public attitudes to combatting hate crime. When asked about witnessing a disability hate crime, 86% of the public think people should offer support to the victim if safe to do so and 76% of those who believe witnesses should offer their support to victims of hate crimes think people should offer to be a witness.
Kayleigh, from London has experienced disability hate crime and was supported during the incident, explained how it impacted her: “I get a feeling that someone’s going to say something to me. It’s alright, I say; sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. But it’s not easy.”
Because not all hate crimes are reported, its prevalence is severely underrepresented.
Kerry, from Milton Keynes, told the charities: “As someone who has faced abuse online and offline, I can understand not reporting it to the police. I didn’t want to be seen as a “victim” or a burden. I thought I could handle it, just ignore it or even brush it off. “
Despite the long-lasting impact of being targeted by a hate crime, the government announced it will not publish a new Hate Crime Strategy that was promised in 2021.
The disability charities are calling on the government to reverse its decision to merge an anti-hate crime strategy into a wider plan to tackle general crime. The government must instead focus on developing and publishing a bespoke hate crime strategy, in close consultation with stakeholders and their families.
Leonard Cheshire and United Response commented on the findings:
“We need to narrow the justice gap between the number of disability hate crimes recorded and the number of offences resulting in a conviction. There are real people behind these numbers and once a person has been a target of hate, they can be utterly changed.
“We are asking the government to rethink the plan not to publish a hate crime strategy. If they want to set targets for police responses to crime, then disability hate crime should be a key focus, not brushed aside.
“Our research shows people want to help in a safe way. We need everyone to be allies in the fight against disability hate crime.”